- Sermon Notes
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The Corinthian church had many, many issues of immaturity. The problem was that they came to Christ out of the city of Corinth, a city plagued with immorality and filled with pagan idols. It’s a huge challenge to take the church from that background and bring them to a place of spiritual maturity.
The same is true for people today. We live in a culture very much like Corinth; immorality is everywhere around us and when someone comes to faith in Christ there are many, many areas in a person’s life that need to be transformed.
In chapter 12, Paul is correcting them in regards to spiritual matters. In an earlier chapter Paul said, “I wanted to talk to you as spiritual people, but I couldn’t, I had to speak to you as carnal, as immature Christians.”
They were certainly Christians and therefore had the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and spiritual gifts were manifested among them, but here again, they were immature. The Spirit of the living God is given to every person who receives Jesus Christ into their heart as Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit gives gifts to each person. But in Corinth there were abuses. You can have gifts of the Holy Spirit and still be very immature.
One of the biggest issues had to do with an air of superiority that some people had; perhaps believing that they had “greater gifts” or that they were superior because they seemed to manifest their spiritual gifts more abundantly. But such an attitude of superiority certainly isn’t the heart of Christ.
Others were responding by wanting nothing to do with spiritual gifts or the manifestation of spiritual things and so here again, the church was divided.
These verses have great spiritual application for us because, in the same way, everyone today who receives Jesus Christ in their heart as Lord and Savior has been given the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and everyone has been gifted by the Holy Spirit as well.
Personally, I think that there is less of an issue of spiritual superiority today than there used to be. It wasn’t that long ago that some people, and in some cases, entire churches, took on an attitude of superiority over other churches because they believed they had greater spiritual gifts because they manifested speaking in tongues, or prophecy, or whatever.
What’s interesting is that here in first Corinthians Paul has to correct those who are acting spiritually superior because in spite of their thinking that they’re ‘all that’ they were actually quite immature and needed a lot of correction.
Spiritual maturity is seen in godly character first and foremost. At the end of this chapter Paul says, “Earnestly desire the greater gifts, and I will show you a still more excellent way.” He then teaches them what it means to love. In fact, Paul says, the first in the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul wrote, “But now abide faith, hope, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”Christian maturity is seen in love above everything else.
I. You are a Spiritual Person
- Paul wants them to be aware of spiritual things. The first thing he wants them to be aware of is that you are a spiritual being and that everyone who receives Jesus Christ receives the Spirit of the living God.
- In other words, we all received the same Holy Spirit, so why all the attitude?
A. You speak from that which fills the heart
- “When you were pagans,” Paul said, “you were led astray to dumb idols.” In other words, those idols were dead and dumb. Paul’s intent is to humble them, and this is a great place to start.
- In contrast, now you have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the living God. In other words, if spiritual words come out of you, if you have spiritual bearing, if there is a manifestation of spiritual things, then that’s the result of the Spirit, so don’t act superior.
- “No one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. He means of course, saying “Jesus is Lord” from the heart and meaning it.
Illus – My restaurant partner came to faith in Christ and in his zeal had buttoned-holed one of the cooks and was trying to get him to “just say the words, just say the words.”
- Before Paul was saved he did say that Jesus was accursed. He was completely against the church and did everything he could against it.
- But then God literally knocked him off his high horse and he received Jesus Christ in his heart as Lord and Savior and was filled with the Holy Spirit and, speaking by the Spirit of God, said, “Jesus is Lord.”
- That phrase, “Speaking by the Spirit of God,” is interesting. When a person says, “Jesus is Lord,” he is speaking from that which fills the heart.
Luke 6:45, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.”
- What a powerful picture of spiritual transformation.
- What is the treasure of your heart? A godly man builds godly treasure by growing spiritually.
Luke 11:11-13, “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish: he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
B. Seek spiritual maturity first
- This is extremely important to understand. It’s possible to receive the Holy Spirit when you ask Jesus to come into your heart, to have spiritual gifts, and even to have the manifestation of the Spirit and be spiritually immature.
- Case in point; that’s exactly what was happening in the church at Corinth, which is why Paul is correcting them.
- I have seen that myself. I personally know Christians, even Christian leaders, who pride themselves in how the Holy Spirit moves in their lives and yet demonstrate immaturity in their lack of love.
1 Corinthians 12:31, Earnestly desire the greater gifts; and I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 If I do not have love, I am nothing.
Illus – Jo, my secretary, used to be the executive secretary for a famous TV evangelist who would make a great show on television of how he had so much of the Holy Spirit, but she was greatly troubled by the lack of spiritual maturity in how he treated those around him.
- I’m convinced that Christian maturity is seen first and foremost in the fruit of the Spirit rather than the gifts of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
II. Use the Gifts God Gives You
- God gives a variety of gifts, all from the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and varieties of effects, but God works all things in all people.
- All of these come from God and He expects us to use them to build up the church whom He loves.
- It makes sense that a variety of gifts and ministries and effects are needed. What if everyone had the same gift?
Illus - Use the actual building of the church as an illustration. What if everyone was an electrician, what if everyone was a plumber? It’s been so wonderful to see so many people not only use their spiritual gift but also their natural abilities for God’s glory. Doesn’t God give us our natural abilities as well as spiritual gifts?
- The more you love Him the more you want to do something for Him.
A. God expects us to use our gifts
- God gives us gifts for the purpose of using them.
Illus - Imagine a virtuoso pianist that refuses to play or a great singer that refuses to sing except when she’s in the shower.
Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
- There is also joy and satisfaction in knowing that you’re living as God made you to live; that you’re taking the gifts that He gave you and using them for His purpose in your life.
Illus - An interviewer asked Eric Little, the Olympic runner, why he ran and he answered, “God made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.”
- When you use the gifts God gave you to bless others, He uses them to bring maturity in you.
B. Spiritual gifts are given to bless others
- Verse 7 - When God gives gifts of the Spirit it isn’t for my own personal benefit, it’s for the common good, that others will be blessed and edified and built up.
- If all spiritual gifts, and even natural abilities, are all given by God for the good of others, doesn’t that exclude the attitude of arrogance or superiority?
- The problem is the natural tendency to think more highly of ourselves then we ought, but isn’t that just another symptom of spiritual immaturity?
Illus – When I was in my late teens, I achieved early success and was moving up in restaurant management. At one point I needed a letter of recommendation and asked the manager to write one, but he was too busy, so he just told me to write my own letter of recommendation and he would sign it. I’m sorry to say I didn’t resist the temptation. Let’s just say that when you look up humility in the encyclopedia, you won’t find that letter of recommendation there as an example.
- The idea is that each one of us is blessed and gifted by the Holy Spirit so that we have something from which we can bless others, some way we can encourage and build up those around us.
Illus – There is a beautiful person in the church who has been going through many physical challenges and difficulties in her health. She suffers with pain and must endure for many years to come, and yet she blesses others. I went to visit someone at the hospital and there she was at the hospital encouraging, praying for them, and strengthening their faith.
C. There are many kinds of gifts
- Paul makes a point of saying over and over that there are varieties of gifts, varieties of ministries, varieties of effects, but all given by the same God.
- This is important because some people look only at this list or other lists found in scriptures, yet God works in many various ways, often uniquely in each person.
- Jesus Himself often accomplished His work in many different ways, perhaps so we don’t get hung up on the method, but rather set our heart on God alone.
Illus - Jesus healed the blind in many different ways. Once He simply said, “Your faith has saved you.” Another time He spat in a man’s eyes, the man could then partially see, so Jesus prayed and laid His hands on the man’s eyes. Another time he spat on the ground, made mud, and then applied it to the man’s eyes.
- Each person has their own gift. Every person in Christ is honored with something, but each is unique in some way. Verse 6 - it is God who works all things in all persons.
- Many compare themselves to others and become very self-critical if their gift doesn’t seem as great as someone else’s, but such discouragement keeps us from enjoying the gift God gave us and having the freedom to develop that gift to its maturity.
- One has the word of wisdom through the Spirit – there have been times in counseling when I had no idea what to say, but I found that God always revealed something through His word.
- Another has the word of knowledge – sometimes people think I have the word of knowledge when a message seems directed at them. No, that was because your wife called and told me what you needed.
Illus – That reminds me of the time our son-in-law was watching an exciting U of O football game and I was listening to the game with an earpiece (which he couldn’t see), and my feed was about 20 seconds ahead of his.
- To another faith – the ability to trust God against all circumstances. Some people have extraordinary faith, but God wants us to all grow in faith.
Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 NASB
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.